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One in seven councils predict rise in judicial challenges over service provision: report

One in ten councils (12%) say they are in danger of being unable to fulfil statutory duties this year and one in seven (14%) say they anticipate an increase in judicial challenges to the level of service provision, the LGiU MJ State of Local Government Finance Survey 2020 has found.

The LGiU and MJ, which have been collaborating on these reports since 2012, said they received 195 responses from 152 councils to this year's survey.

Other key findings included:

  • Nearly all councils (97%) plan to increase council tax in 2020/21, with most (93%) planning to raise it by more than 1.5%.
  • Nearly all councils (97%) plan to increase fees and charges in 2020/21, with some being forced to raise them ‘by the maximum possible amount’ (14%).
  • Confidence in the sustainability of local government finance remained very low, with three quarters (74%) of councils saying they did not feel confident.
  • Children’s Services & Education was the top immediate pressure, while Adult Social Care remained the top long-term pressure.
  • For over half of councils (59%), the Public Works Loan Board interest rate rise has forced them to alter their 2020/21 financial plans.
  • 77% lacked confidence in 100% Business Rate Retention as a mechanism to fund local government.
  • Nearly all councils (98%) say they are planning work to tackle climate change.
  • There was near universal disappointment in the Government’s progress delivering a sustainable funding system for local government (97%) and a long-term social care strategy (98%).

The full report can be viewed here.

Writing in the forewords to the report, Jonathan Carr-West, Chief Executive of LGiU, said: “The state of local government finances is dire. Eight years later and the message continues to be the same, a broken record. It is simply unacceptable that the Government has let things get to this point. Councils deserve better as they work tirelessly, day in and day out, to deliver the best quality services for their residents.

“This isn’t local government asking for more money. This is about a fundamentally flawed system that has been broken for years and the Government continually refusing to acknowledge or engage in a proper solution. Sticking plasters will not solve these critical issues. Our social care system is no longer on the edge, it’s fallen off the cliff. Our children’s services aren’t at breaking point, they’re broken. These are issues that cannot wait another year to be solved. That is why we look forward to working with the new Government to develop solutions in the weeks and months ahead.”

Heather Jameson, Editor of The MJ, said: “The local government funding system is in desperate need of an overhaul. Despite a decade of austerity, local government is doing a valiant job of holding their services together, but they can’t go on forever without proper funding. While the Government is reviewing the current funding system, the reforms are unlikely to go far enough to pay for the vital services that care for our elderly, protect our children, and help our communities thrive.

“As a country, we need to have a serious debate about the state of our state. We need to consider what services we want and how to pay for them. And we need to give local government the powers to get on with the job.”